Saturday, 7 July 2018

The 38th London Wine Fair

Jean-Francois Baele, owner of Domaine Ry d'Argent in Bovesse, Namur, Belgium
Belgian wine drew us to Olympia this year. We had heard about some wines from Belgium in 2017 but only after we had gone home, so we were determined not to miss out this time.

There were vineyards in Belgium before the Napoleonic wars and when Napoleon took Belgium he decided they should be eliminated to reduce competition.

Clearly things have picked up a bit since then but Belgian wine hadn't impinged on our consciousness whereas Dutch and Luxembourgeois wine had. So we made right for the Belgian section. Section? There was just the one stand; Domaine du Ry d'Argent. More disappointing was the fact that they were presenting only very few wines, mostly sparkling.

Rosee d'Audrey named after Jean-Francois' wife.

This one was from Dornfelder, intriguingly.

La Source was the only non-sparling wine, an interesting blend of Regent, Cabernet Jura, and Cabernet Noir - the latter two varieties by Valentin Blattner.

Other grapes used by this domaine include Chardonnay, Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Pinot Gris, Solaris, Auxerrois, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir. We look forward to tasting more wines from Belgium.

The London Wine Fair takes place at Olympia
As we have often mentioned, you reall have to have a game-plan when visiting big fairs such as this, With only Belgium in our sights we took to a bit of desultory wandering.

You don't have to wander far to find things of interest. This Patagonian Trousseau is from an 0.8 ha. parcel of vines planted in 1932 which makes them the oldest existing Trousseau vines in Argentina. The vines were planted on their own roots 'por manos anonimos.' So Argentina red isn't just Malbec, Bonarda and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The colour was very light despite being 13.5% Abv.

Also of interest was a Criolla, the Mission grape brought from the Canary Islands by the first settlers to make sacremantal wine. As everyone knows this is nothing other than Listan Negro. Also light in colour, also 13.5%.

Laurie Webster is MD of Las Bodegas
The importer of these interesting wines is an interesting company called Las Bodegas. They specialise in Argentina. 3 of the 4 directors were born there. Recently they have even reduced their prices thanks to currency fluctuations.

Next door at Gourvid, another South American specialist, we were pointed in the direction of an Argentinian Ancelotta.

Ancelotta - always delicious

We have always liked an Ancelotta whether Italian or South American, This is another of those grapes which seem unjustly neglected.

Our Gourvid guide was charming chap called Rafael Lljtman Gorella, a born salesman if ever there was one.

It was also a pleasure to meet the Bat and Bottle couple Emma and Ben Robson. We have had excellent experiences with Bat and Bottle over quite a few years. They seek out Italian and other rarities with admirable regularity and are a pleasure to deal with.

Along with the normal exhibitors was an Uzbekistan stand. The varieties were not unusual but it was interesting to note how the Uzbek taste seems to be on the sweet side. This is typical for an Eastern  country and something to be cherished. As things develop, dryer wines will probably take over as they do almost everywhere else.

It was good to see Plumpton College had a stand and even better to discover nothing less than a English Marani (Georgian wine cellar) based at Plumpton making wine in Qvevri.

Henry Mchedlishvili was on hand to offer tastings and explain. 

Basically, Plumpton College jumped at the chance to provide a platform for the research and developement of wines made in Qvevris in the traditional Georgian way but using grapes imported from Puglia. Under the Cru Artisan umbrella, so-called studentships and educational programmes are available and there is a winemaking club for enthusiasts.

There was a great piece of Exhibition kit from Nyetimber - a beautifully converted and re-sprayed old Routemaster bus replete with bar and entertainment area. This should go down a treat at VinItaly and ProWein.

This was not a gimmick but in fact there was a slew of gimmicks in the shape of fancy bottles mostly for fizz. We do hope this isn't what the future is going to look like.

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